An increasingly public feud over the role of Michele Kelm-Helgen in the building of the new Minnesota Vikings stadium erupted again Friday, exposing a continuing rift centered on one of Gov. Mark Dayton's former top aides.

The Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, which oversees the stadium's construction and which Kelm-Helgen chairs, adopted a pay equity report Friday, but not before she faced questions over whether she was essentially voting for a future pay increase for herself.

Kelm-Helgen, who was appointed as chairwoman by Dayton, and was strongly defended by the governor earlier in the week, made an emotional defense of her job performance at the meeting. She said she was "exhausted" by the bickering over her $127,000-a-year position that stretched all the way to the Republican-controlled Minnesota House.

Friday's acrimony, which followed a similar exchange in March, was a rare public airing of a behind-the-scenes dispute at a public board that is usually enmeshed in the nuts-and-bolts progress of building the Vikings' $1.06 billion stadium in downtown Minneapolis. And as before, the debate centered on Kelm-Helgen's insistence that her full-time role was necessary and pairs with the duties of Ted Mondale, the authority's executive director, who earns $162,245.

During a lull in Friday's meeting, which ended with both sides trying to downplay any long-term political consequences, Mondale declined to comment. "Things are a little hot in there," he said as he sidestepped reporters and headed back into the meeting.

At one point, Kelm-Helgen traded heated comments with John Griffith, a board member who has been an executive vice president at Target Corp. She said Friday that earlier this year, Griffith privately warned the board's attorney that he would publicly criticize Kelm-Helgen if she insisted that she be included in a pay equity report that might lead to another pay increase.

She said that Griffith told the attorney to warn Kelm-Helgen that "if you do not agree to take yourself out of the equity report, I am going to make an issue of her" job. Kelm-Helgen added that she had "never felt more threatened by board members."

She also accused Griffith and others of continually trying to diminish her role, telling her she should instead "just go be a talking head and a lobbyist" for the project instead of immersing herself in the stadium's many intricate details.

"I am a full-time, benefited, regular employee," she added moments later. She also made public a written memo Friday saying she would "hereby waive any interest in additional compensation for my service as MSFA board chair at this time."

The dispute involves two administrators with longtime DFL ties, Mondale and Kelm-Helgen, who sat shoulder-to-shoulder at Friday's meeting. Kelm-Helgen was Dayton's deputy of chief of staff before being named the authority's chair. Mondale, who at one point was Dayton's chief stadium negotiator at the Legislature, is the son of former Vice President Walter Mondale.

The pay equity report, which is required by law, assigns points to compare salaries to determine whether women job classes are consistently paid below what men earn. Though the report showed that the authority was paying men and women within an acceptable range, Griffith said the report — by including Kelm-Helgen, and comparing her to Mondale — "suggests that there is gender bias in how we are treating Michele."

There were, however, some surprising signs of agreement Friday. After his exchanges with Kelm-Helgen, Griffith told reporters after the meeting that he would vote for Kelm-Helgen as chairwoman — should he have a chance to do so — and praised her work. The board also generally agreed Friday that once the stadium opens next year, and is operated by a professional management firm, the board's duties would likely have to be revised.

Friday's debate — for the second time in as many months — overshadowed efforts by the Vikings to highlight the team's latest contributions to the project. In March, it took the spotlight off the team's announcement that it had contributed $19 million more to the stadium.

"I don't think it impacts our day-to-day efforts," Vikings spokesman Lester Bagley said of Friday's events.

The meeting came two days after Dayton had joined in the controversy, criticizing a House Republican proposal to eliminate Kelm-Helgen's salary. State Rep. Sarah Anderson, R-Plymouth, the chairwoman of the House State Government Finance Committee, said the stadium authority seemed to have an executive director and a "pseudo executive director," referring to Kelm-Helgen.

That drew a sharp reaction from Dayton, who led the effort get legislative approval for the stadium.

"So now you have a House committee popping off and saying, 'Well, she can't be paid a salary?' " the governor said. "It's none of their business."

Kathy Tunheim, whose public relations agency represents the authority, tried later Friday to minimize the fallout. "It's important that the fact that they're trying to work their way through it gets reflected," she said.

Mike Kaszuba • 612-673-4388